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Laos to Send Another 2,000 Workers to South Korean Factories for Higher-Paying Jobs

Source: Radio Free Asia

Laos will send an additional 2,000 workers to South Korea in an agreement that gives Laotians a chance to make a much higher salary as the country continues to struggle with high inflation and unemployment.

New recruits will work in factories with contracts of between three and five years that carry salaries of at least US$1,600 per month, a labor official in Vientiane said.

“Due to inflation in Laos, there isn’t enough money to support families,” a man from Vientiane province’s Phon Hong district told Radio Free Asia.

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Laos is experiencing a serious economic slump characterized by double-digit inflation, worsening public finances, and the devaluation of the kip.

In South Korea, workers can expect to make almost 1 million kip (about US$52) per day – the same as about one month’s pay in Laos, the man said. 

There are already about 2,800 Laotians working in South Korea, most doing short-term seasonal work in the agricultural sector, according to Laos’ Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. 

But South Korea’s shortage of young workers has prompted the government to look again at Southeast Asia for help staffing its factories. Tens of thousands of Cambodians already work in the country and send millions of dollars to relatives back home.

Higher pay compared to Thailand

One worker from Vientiane’s Keo Oudom district said many people from his village have gone to work in Thailand, where most earn about 10,000 baht (about US$280 per month) – much less than what South Korean companies are promising.

The new longer-term contracts will require a visa interview and some knowledge of the Korean language, the labor official said. The five to six month agricultural contracts have not required any Korean learning.

Recruiters are also requiring an asset – such as a land title – to be used as collateral to cover the cost of a visa, a plane ticket and training, according to the worker from the Keo Oudom district. Companies deduct the cost from paychecks each month to recover the costs, he said.

The South Korean labor recruitment office in Laos recently registered prospective workers to take a Korean language proficiency exam between July 15 and Aug. 28. So far, 2,330 job applicants have taken the exam, according to the office.

The worker from Phon Hong district said he’s worried about the higher cost of living in South Korea. He plans to go initially on a short-term contract, using his homegrown farming skills.

If everything goes well, he’ll consider longer-term work. Only then will he try to learn enough Korean to get by, he said.